Trego Elementary School is going to a block schedule, so we can take advantage of the knowledge that is in our community. For over a century, we’ve been a rural school in the standard elementary model – a single teacher, full-time in a single classroom . . . in our case a single multi-grade classroom.
This year, kindergarten through 4th grade retains that model – but 5th through eighth goes to block schedules, so we can bring in the sort of classes that haven’t been offered. The new offerings include a two-hour block on Monday afternoons that will be stressing the performing arts. Friday afternoon is a block teaching electrical wiring. And Thursday afternoon is a two hour block stressing music. As we set up the blocks, I thought of the many advantages to getting a real music teacher.
As a kid, 60 years ago, we Mrs. Taylor taught singing – she started with a pitch pipe to give us the right note to start, and a book full of Stephen Foster songs. I kind of liked the Camptown Races – and Bobby Herron’s book always seemed to direct him to sing Old Black Joe – regardless of the assigned song. Over a half-century later, I understand how Mr. Berg didn’t believe I really had the background necessary to enroll in his band when I went to high school.
So this year, backup plan 4 was simple – I committed. If we can’t get a regular music teacher, I’ll get the kids harmonicas, some harmonica books, and volunteer to spend 13 weeks, 2 hours a week, teaching our kids to play harmonica.
Frankly, I think all schools should teach harmonica. It’s inexpensive, and doesn’t take up much space. If it ever goes out of tune (and I have had two go bad) a new one is affordable. It isn’t much of an instrument for a marching band – but the mouth harp is always there if the power goes out.
Nothing stops a harmonica player from reading notes – but the beginner’s songbook is illustrated with up and down arrows (to show whether to breath in or out) and numbered 1 through 10 to show which hole gets the breath. 20 notes are enough for a lot of music.
So Thursday afternoon, I’ll be a volunteer classroom aid, showing 5th, 6th and 7th grade students how to get music out of a harmonica. We’re still recruiting for part-time teachers for the second and third trimesters.
The other neat thing about the block scheduling is that home-schooled students (fifth through eighth grades) now have an option to come in for a single class.